Do any of you have that friend who always seems to be living in the past? They want to go to the same old places and do the same old things that you used to do and don’t want to accept that times have changed. When it comes to Magic, Tom Strong is that friend of mine. He wants to counter your spells, kill your creatures, and draw some cards–all at instant speed.
That kind of Magic isn’t viable too often these days, as the game has shifted to being played on the battlefield with a heavy emphasis on creature combat. But you can be sure that at any opportunity, Tom will party like it’s 1999, especially in formats where Snapcaster Mage and Cryptic Command are legal.
So it’s no surprise to see him take a viable Modern deck, Jeskai Control, and cut those annoying, sorcery-speed Nahiri, the Harbingers and play a bunch of flash threats in their stead. Vendilion Clique and Spell Queller certainly aren’t as powerful as attacking with Emrakul, the Aeons Torn (she sets a pretty high bar in that respect), but they get the job done two to three points at a time. Celestial Colonnade and burn spells are there to help win a close race if need be, but for the most part this deck is about running your opponent out of threats and cleaning up the game with whatever you have before they can recover.
The flash theme continues with Thought Scour taking the place of Serum Visions. This may seem strange, since committing one mana on your turn for a better effect seems like a reasonable tradeoff, but Thought Scour also unlocks the power of your Snapcaster Mages. You can now use them as instant speed Silvergill Adepts in order to establish or hasten a clock at the right moment. Having something proactive to do with your mana at instant speed is key in reactive decks like this, since otherwise your opponent can build up for a big turn and overload your mana.
The Moorland Haunt is another cheeky addition that contributes to the nickel-and-dime gameplan. It isn’t hard to imagine making two or three Spirits that attack for a bit of damage and perhaps chump-block a Tarmogoyf on the last turn. With Affinity, Infect, and Jund all being popular right now, there’s a strong case for playing a Ghost Quarter in this spot, but maybe the mana is good enough for both.
It’s a little surprising to not see Restoration Angel here, but it’s clear that mana efficiency was very important to Tom. Only two cards in the maindeck cost more than three mana with three more in the sideboard. Your threats aren’t aggressive enough to take over a game, so you need to manage the game to spots where you can land them while still answering your opponent’s threats. That means playing two and three spells in a turn as often as possible.
Is this deck more powerful than a normal build of Jeskai? Probably not. But it does offer a glimmer of hope to the disillusioned masses who long for the good old days that maybe you can go home again.